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Vitamin C: The Wonder Nutrient that Keeps on Going

Most of us are at least somewhat aware of vitamin C's health benefits: fighting colds and flu and necessary for various other body functions. However, more and more research indicates that vitamin C may be more important than most of us think.

Nobel Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling was the first to fully realize the crucial importance of vitamin C in the maintenance of a healthy immune system. In 1970, he proposed that taking vitamin C in much higher amounts than that of the official RDA could both prevent and shorten the duration of the common cold.

At that time, most experts disagreed with Dr. Pauling. However, more recent research has confirmed his original proposition. Not only does high vitamin C intake prevent and reduce the severity of colds, it also effectively fights secondary viral and bacterial infections. Other research is finding more valuable data concerning vitamin C's health benefits. Of real interest is its ability to lower the risk of various kinds of cancer: breast, cervix, colon, rectum, lung, prostate, and stomach cancers are among these. The theory behind this is vitamin C's antioxidant properties; in other words, vitamin C eliminates free radicals, agents that effectively damage healthy tissue and cells in a variety of ways.

There are various studies to support the vitamin's anticancer abilities. One found that daily supplementation with 500 mg for 10 years cut the risk of bladder cancer by 60 percent. Another found that supplementation with 3,000 mg daily prevented polyp growth in colon cancer; still other findings indicate that a vitamin C intake of only 157 mg a day cuts the risk of colon cancer in half.

Dr. Pauling and Dr. Cameron pioneered the use of large daily doses of vitamin C (10,000 mg) in the treatment of cancer patients. From their experiments at the Vale of Leven Hospital in Scotland, they concluded that terminal cancer patients who received large daily doses of vitamin C along with their regular treatment lived much longer than patients who did not receive vitamin C. In addition, they also experienced less pain, and in general, a much improved quality of life. Other doctors, including Canadian physician Abram Hoffer, expanded on the Pauling/Cameron treatment by adding large amounts of vitamin E, niacin, B vitamins, beta carotene, and some minerals. The results were astounding; those cancer patients who followed the regimen lived an average of 16 times longer than those who did not follow the regimen.

Vitamin C and heart health
Research shows that vitamin C has a number of other health promoting abilities. One of the most impressive its its ability to normalize blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, thin the blood, and protect the lining of blood vessel walls from free radical damage (which contributes to atherosclerosis and other forms of heart disease). Other research indicates that adequate intake of Vitamin C can significantly reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

A recent study indicates that people who supplement with more than 700 mg of vitamin C daily have a 62 percent lower risk of dying from some form of heart disease than do people with a daily intake of 60 mg or less.

Supplementation with 2 g (2,000 mg) of the vitamin has been found to reduce the adhesion of white blood cells to the lining of blood vessel walls, thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.

Other Benefits
Besides reducing the severity of colds/flu and promoting heart health, vitamin C has other wonderful health benefits.

Large doses have been found to reduce asthma symptoms significantly; in addition, studies suggest that rheumatoid arthritis sufferers could benefit from vitamin C supplementation. Other research shows that vitamin C supplementation can lower the risk of cataracts and glaucoma

How much to take?
It is obvious from the works of Dr. Pauling and others that the RDA of 60 mg is far too low. Sure, it may prevent scurvy, but it also falls far short of promoting great health. Even an RDA of 200, though adequate for health

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